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Oct 20

First Blog

When I became the second mother to my adult daughter Brenda, she shared with me a lot of the hundreds of poems she had written from the time she was a teenager. Nearly all of them were done in free verse and had a kind of spontaneity about them that very effectively communicated present-moment, raw truth. Each one, which she created within seconds or minutes of when she began them, communicated extremely poignant feelings from difficult moments in her childhood and youth. I hadn’t written much in free verse but had almost always written in other styles and had spent a lot of time trying to get everything to flow and rhyme. I was really touched by how her poetry reached in and touched my soul and quickened my feelings with clarity.
Three years ago, our son Darian, who was enrolled in a poetry-writing class at the university, often came home and shared with me what he was learning, as well as some of his newly-written poetry. He was an amazing writer—interesting and amazingly clever. I started applying what he taught me and then I’d share with him what I had written and we’d talk. I really appreciate all the many times we shared during those moments we spent together.
I had been working on another book about one of our children who had over-come some monumental challenges. I had no intention of ever publishing my poems, let alone share them with anyone other than a very few trusted people, so I was literally blown away when Darian told me one day, Mom, you need to put that book you’re writing aside and concentrate on your poetry. You’re a really good writer. You need to see about getting a book of your poetry published. Such a comment from anyone else would never have had such an impact on me, nor caused me to change direction like he did. I immediately started taking my poetry out of the drawers and other places I had stashed them and began compiling them into a book.
Once I made the determination to work toward one day publishing my poetry, I began to be filled with desire, and I felt driven to accomplish what I set out to do. Continually growing within me was an inner-knowing that what I was doing was pleasing to God, that I was doing what He wanted me to do. Continually, my desire was increased. I sensed that He had a direction He was taking my book—a purpose, and I felt a growing sense that by the time I published my book, it would be exactly at the right time, done exactly the right way, and would contain exactly what God would have me include in it. Every time I would face a hurdle or set-back, which I would soon start facing, these feelings became more defined and kept me pushing forward. I felt God’s presence, His assistance, and his constant direction through the whole project. More and more did I feel, growing within me, a conviction that God had a purpose all along with every challenge I’d faced with our children—every monumental difficulty, ridiculous situation, my experience with coming face-to-face with my co-dependency, my healing, everything.
Soon after I started the project, I woke up one morning with the title of my book in my head. I hadn’t spent any time trying to come up with an appropriate title—it was just there: Sane Poems for Insane Moments. I knew that God had planted the thought in my mind and from then on I knew that would be my book’s title. I would put a lot more effort into coming up with an appropriate book cover later.
Once, my friend Annette came and sat down beside me where we conversed about how she had been dealing with some very difficult issues with respect to her children and former husband. It was with considerable apprehension and trepidation that I found myself asking her if I might read one of my poems to her, and she graciously agreed to listen. Wow—I had just taken a huge step I had never before done: I actually dared take such a risk and offer to share a part of me which I had always kept hidden. Amazing is hardly an adequate expression for the reality of what I had just done; but with a knot in my tummy, I plunged right in and started reading aloud, A Child’s Capacity. At the end, Annette started to cry. She expressed how very much she appreciated my sharing the poem with her, and I was incredibly taken back by her response; then the real miracle began when she opened up and started talking about her challenges of raising children as a single mother while continually having to deal with an extremely narcissistic ex-husband who was determined to destroy her and deplete her financially.
Not long after, I dared share another poem with someone else and again was taken back when that other person broke down and cried, and then opened up and started talking about some of her huge challenges. Well, I started feeling a little bit of confidence emerge within me which gave me the fortitude to continue sharing my poetry. Over and over again it was with the same results which really surprised me. Apprehension and trepidation began to be replaced by peaceful satisfaction and pure delight. After a while, I found that I loved sharing my poetry, as well as the response it generated, while I witnessed how walls and barriers were pushed aside and people were willing to open up. I felt my perspective on people and their challenges shift as each person’s individual value was clarified and defined for me again and again. I started to sense God’s involvement in my life as never before. Greater and greater has been my desire to share myself and what I have come to know and understand with others which spurred me forward into completing my first volume ofSane Poems for Insane Moments.
Although I’m not totally well from my struggle with co-dependency, my becoming aware of, acknowledging it, and healing has been a fundamental precursor to my being able to over-come depression, and to my feeling happy and satisfied. Not only have I come to realize, as never before, the beauty of my own uniqueness, as well as my own individual worth and identity, I have been much more able to detect the same in every other person. More and more do I appreciate what Carolyn Stewart told me several years ago when sheasked me if I had ever had any of my poems published. Emphatically, I had told her, no, and explained that I was a very private person and didn’t feel comfortable sharing my poems. She had responded by saying, If you have that kind of talent, you need to share it.Looking back, it really was impossible for me to even consider such a possibility at that time. It is with immense gratitude to God that I acknowledge how He has extended His healing influence to me and increased my capacity to bless the lives of others through poetry.
I’ve learned to always carry a notebook and pen with me wherever I go. To me, that has been more important than even my purse. If I had ever thought that I would write a book by blocking out an hour of time every night and just work on my book, there’s no way I would be publishing a book right now. Few have been the times when strokes of ideas and memories have come to me when I’ve been sitting down brain-storming. I’d say that ninety-five percent of the time the ideas have flooded into my head and heart while I’ve been driving to a child’s doctor appointment, I’ve been exercising at the FitnessCenter, or I’ve been involved in other things such as disciplining a child. I’ve found that if I don’t immediately write down what pops into my head, it’s gone and I usually can’t recall it. There’ve been many times I’d be driving along the road and a poem would begin emerging. I have either quickly jotted it down on the notebook I’ve kept right with me or I’ve pulled off to the side of the road and spent time writing. Many have been the times when a thought or memory has come to me while I’m listening to my children talk. I’ve learned to tell them, Just a second—a thought just came to me and I know I’ll lose it if I don’t write it down right now. Do you mind if I just jot it down really quick? Generally our children have been very supportive. They know how frustrated I get when ideas and memories escape me. I’ve learned that it’s through such fleeting strokes of ideas and memories that the Holy Ghost teaches, guides, and directs us. That’s why I have dedicated my book to God. There’s no way I could have come up with the thoughts, impressions, and poetry by myself. I KNOW where they came from.
Writing poetry has definitely helped me to develop greater patience for dealing with our children. So often, when we’ve faced a crazy kid moment, a poem will start developing in my head; or I’ll start thinking about how the experience might fit in my book. Writing has been a way for me to defuse a lot of frustration and put it into perspective. It’s given me the chance to develop gratitude and cheerfulness in the face of challenges. For instance, I wrote this following poem when I was dealing with a child who was often extremely pessimistic and negative, and had a tendency to generate conflict and stress within the family. Whenever that child started doing that, I’d often say You’re being a toxic depletor and your attitude is making us all get stuck in sticky black tar. During one of those times, this poem started being created in my head. As I completed it, I felt grateful I had had to deal with that episode. I know there are a lot of people out there who are facing similar challenges. I’m really anxious and excited to share and connect with them through my poetry.
You’re a Toxic Depletor
You’re a toxic depletor,
Sucking positive energy out,
Wrapped in your own perception
That’s dyslexic and full of doubt.
You may be confused by the bubble
I’ve placed around my space,
But I cannot stand to be pulled down
When we’re standing face-to-face.
I remember the first time, about two and a half years ago, when I held my completed book in my hands. It contained a total of about eighty-five poems, followed by a section of thoughts and stories. The copy, which my husband, Vance, had printed off, didn’t look too exciting. I needed someone who could give me some ideas and advice. Vance asked Jane Wise, a professor at the BYU Law School, if she would be willing to help me. She was excited to do it. She and I started corresponding and she offered valuable insight, advice, and editing—all the while telling me what a privilege it was for her to assist me. She wouldn’t accept any kind of payment. It was Jane who helped me reformat my entire book and put a preface before each poem. When I met with her, tears came to her eyes when she told me that she had been profoundly touched by what I had written. I was really taken back by her response. She continued to give me assistance throughout the entire process. Jane is one of the most genuine, sensitive, giving people I know.
Almost two years ago, I had another finished copy of my book which Jane had edited and had gotten it to where it was actually publishable; but I started running into (or should I say I started causing) some complications. I kept writing poems which I wanted to include in the book. I ended up with at least a couple hundred additional poems and stories from when Jane last had seen my book. I was embarrassed that I had changed it so much and didn’t know how I could possibly ask her to go through it again. There were a few times I’d think that I had come to a publishable point, but my book continued to grow as experiences with our children would inspire me to write new poems, or I’d remember experiences I’d want to have included. By the time I had over three hundred poems included, I came to the decision to divide the book into four volumes, which I did. At that point, I started putting anything new I wrote in its own volume, while I turned my focus toward completion of volume 1.
I was finally at a point when I started contacting publishing companies. Almost every one I contacted indicated right up front that they were not interested in poetry. I knew my book was NOT just a book of poetry. It was my journey raising foster and adopted children conveyed through poetry which had emerged from my experiences. I finally sent my manuscript to twelve publishing companies. One by one, each sent me letters of rejection. But then the long-anticipated day came when I received a letter from Dorrance Publishing Company who agreed to publish my book on a subsidized basis. The only trouble was—they wanted me to pay them $11,000. up front. I thought to myself, I’ve sunk my money into raising all these special-needs children. There’s no money just sitting there waiting for us to use. I needed the sale of my book to cover the costs of publishing my book. I turned them down. I began considering the idea of self-publishing.
In the meantime, Jane Wise gave me assistance again; and then I showed it to my son, Darian, who had taken writing classes at the university, and he talked to me at length about the kinds of things he had found interesting in other poetry books he had read, and he strongly suggested that I change my book’s appearance including the font. What he suggested was on over-whelming thought. I wanted desperately to just be done and I didn’t want to believe it would make a difference with my book; yet, I knew he was right. I finally plunged in and spent the next several months discovering a new creative aspect in writing poetry.
Last fall, 2010, when my book was again ready to be published, I asked our therapist to look over my manuscript to make sure I had correctly addressed the subject of reactive attachment disorder which she graciously agreed to do.  She not only made clarifications, but she also brought to my awareness some of her concerns with how I had formatted the book. She pointed out that I had a nice book of poems, stories, and thoughts, but also explained how she felt that my book lacked a foundation and direction. In the very beginning, she told me that I needed to introduce my family, tell how we became a family, and lay the foundation as to why I even wrote my book. She said that the way I had written it left too many unanswered questions. I rebelled at the reality of what she was suggesting that I do. I was tired of being asked, Have you finished your book yet? I just wanted to be done. For a few days I pondered what she had told me and I knew she was right.
One day, about that same time, I was at the fitness center exercising and going through my Tae Kwon Do forms, Tom Davis, the husband of someone I knew but hadn’t seen for several years, approached me and asked where I had received my training in Tae Kwon Do. We spent some time talking and it was pretty clear that he didn’t remember who I was. Then his wife, Gigi walked up and her eyes lit up when she realized I was somebody she had known. We continued talking and one of them mentioned something about the Lunar Publishing Company they owned. Well, that definitely grabbed my interest. I told them about my book and they gave me a business card. I never saw them again, but I thought a lot about the possibility of getting them to publish my book.
Reformatting my book was not a simple rearranging of pages. Although I was able to leave a lot of the pages intact, most of my book had to be completely over-hauled. During this time, there were a lot of things I realized that needed to be included which had to do with abuse, foster care, and respite care that  I was then able to add. I took out some of the original poems and added many others, and changed the Section titles. I finished in April 2011 knowing my book was done well and was pleasing to God. I knew I was finally ready to begin the publishing process. How many had been the times when, during the three years of working on my book, that I’ve declared, I’m done with my book. I was relieved to finally be done.
I had spent a lot of time trying to come up with clever book cover ideas. I asked my sister to help me with that project since she was an artist, but I really didn’t know what I wanted. I thought of having her draw a picture of two parents tied up on a railroad track with an approaching train in the distance and the kids standing around cheering, but that didn’t fit. Another idea was a family at the beach building a sand castle with a looming wave ready to crash down on them, but I wasn’t quite sure about that either. I wanted something kind of comical and light. There were several other ideas I was considering; but then one day I had, come into my mind, a certain picture I had taken of three of our children when they were small. We had been irrigating and those three girls found the only place in our yard that had turned to mud. With delight, they started playing in the mud. When they started covering themselves with the mud I grabbed my camera. How grateful I am that I had the good sense to grab my camera. Every time I looked at that picture it brought such a joyful memory and feeling to me. I knew that I would be using that picture for my book cover.
In April 2011, I called Lunar Publishing and began the process of having them publish my book. Because I had prepared the book for self-publishing, it was in a nearly final publishable stage and my friend, Gigi (owner of Lunar Publishing) agreed to help me get it published by June fifteenth, only six weeks later.
She brought up the possibility of including some family photos which got me thinking of different possibilities. At the same time, my daughter, Brenda suggested that I ask a mutual friend, Amber McDonald, who was an artist, if she wanted to draw some simple illustrations that I could use. She had never before done illustrations that would be published in a book and she was excited for the opportunity.
I told her that since so much of the book was pretty serious-minded in its content I thought it would be nice if the drawings were done in a cartoon style to lighten the book up a bit. She said she’d send me a few samples of some of her different styles which she could complete in a relatively short amount of time.
Even though she was working at two other jobs, Amber made time to complete a three drawings—a cartoon and a caricature, each one taking only an hour or so to complete, and another done in a style that took her about five hours to do—one that absolutely grabbed at me. I pushed aside my desire to have any other style. I knew that Amber had an artistic gift that would augment the message I had attempted to communicate in my book. I chose to postpone the publishing date and asked her to make about twenty drawings, including thirteen portraits of our children from when they each first came into our family. Our new projected date for publishing was moved to August 30, 2011.
Amber is an amazing artist. Her drawings have added so much to my book. Now that it’s at the printer’s, and I’ve taken time to ponder about the process I’ve had to go through to get to this point, it is humbling to realize how God has placed all along the way exactly everyone and everything I’d need to publish this incredible book which has such a powerful and beautiful message. My faith and trust in God has been strengthened and my gratitude enlarged. How much I appreciate experiences like this that has quickened my conviction that there is a God in Heaven that loves and watches over me.
I know that the kinds of challenges about which this book highlights is rampant throughout the world, not just among many adoptive families, but among many other families and people. There are a lot of people out there who are dealing with the same kind of challenges we have—parents, spouses, teachers, neighbors, grandparents. More than any other time in the history of man are we dealing with a heightened amount of mental health, broken trust, and attachment issues. There are many discouraged, sad, angry, tired people out there determined to make a go of life on their own. The results: more sadness, discouragement, angriness.  We, as God’s children, need each other. I have felt driven to reach out. I know how to survive insane and ridiculously difficult challenges; it’s through turning to God. There is no other way I’ve seen that works so well.  That is the main message I hope to communicate in my book, Sane Poems for Insane Moments. God is real. We have a literal Father in Heaven that continually watches over us. Jesus is the very Christ. Through Him we can accomplish and endure all things with joy and peace.

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